We’ll look to improve on that here, starting with the early prelims here.
Sergey Morozov (18-5) vs Journey Newson (10-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun scrap to open the card in the bantamweight division. Morozov is 2-2 in his last four, losing to Usman Nurmagomedov (UFC Fight Island 8) and Douglas Silva De Andrade (UFC 271) while beating Khalid Taha and Raulian Paiva most recently. Newson on the other hand was KO’d by Randy Costa at UFC Vegas 11, before taking over a year off and returning with a win over Fernando Garcia most recently.
Morozov is a solid all-rounder, with excellent striking technique and solid wrestling to go with his excellent top game with vicious ground and pound skills. Newson is on his way to becoming an all-rounder, but he’s not quite there yet although his Brazilian jiu-jitsu is very useful for him. With that said though, Morozov just seems to be better everywhere this fight goes.
He’s the better, more powerful and more aggressive striker, and his top game is far better than Newson’s bottom game is when it comes to ground-and-pound vs jiu-jitsu. I don’t see a finish because Newson is no pushover, but Morozov has the skills to win the close exchanges and take over more as the fight goes on to claim a decision on the cards. PICK – Sergey Morozov via Decision
David Dvorak (20-4) vs Manel Kape (17-6) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Banger at flyweight next. Dvorak saw his 16-fight win streak snapped last time out when Matheus Nicolau earned a decision over him in his last bout. Kape alternatively has won his last two in a row, KO’ing both Ode Osbourne (UFC 265) and Zhalgas Zhumagulov (UFC Vegas 44).
Dvorak is a brilliant boxer with good footwork and a lovely jab, while his defensive grappling is also excellent to keep fights standing. His biggest weakness is that he can be a slow starter. Kape on the other hand is an explosive striker with great counter-striking and good defensive wrestling too. His biggest weakness is that he tends to wait a lot to counter attack, and that lack of volume cost him in his opening two UFC fights.
That slow start for Dvorak could be a huge issue, because Kape likes to come out of the blocks quickly with his big strikes looking for a finish and he has excellent knockout power. Dvorak can get hit and hurt, but if he gets past that stage then it will be an excellent striking match. I’ll lean with Kape because it’s highly unlikely he loses the first round if he fights properly, and that’s an obvious advantage. PICK – Manel Kape via Decision
Bryan Battle (8-1) vs Rinat Fakhretdinov (19-1) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
A very interesting welterweight bout up next. Battle is on a seven-fight win streak including winning the latest series of TUF, beating Gilbert Urbina in the finale, then beating Tresean Gore and KO’ing Takashi Sato most recently via head-kick. Fakhretdinov steps in on just two-weeks’ notice on an 18-fight win streak, who won his UFC debut last time out back in June.
Battle is a really good fighter with a bit of everything in his wheelhouse, with some solid wrestling and great submission skills as well as explosive striking when he needs it and unlimited cardio. “Gladiator” is likely to try and wrestle his way to victory here, but he has got crazy power too and often relies heavily on landing one big shot.
But with Battle’s style of moving constantly and being strong everywhere, it’s hard to see how he loses this one. There is always the chance that Fakhretdinov wrestles his way to a win, but he really lacks urgency to be busy and against Battle that is a recipe for disaster. PICK – Bryan Battle via Decision
Rafa Garcia (14-3) vs Maheshate (9-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Lightweight banger up next between two prospects in the weight class. Garcia saw his two-fight win streak snapped last time out when he lost to Drakkar Klose at UFC 277, while Maheshate is on a seven-fight win streak with a first-round KO in his UFC debut against Steve Garcia most recently at UFC 275.
Garcia is a very good wrestler, who has got five round experience and fantastic cardio to be able to wrestle all night long. Maheshate is a striker, with a piston-like right hand that has the power and ability to put people out if he lands clean. Garcia is a very aggressive fighter which can leave opportunities for Maheshate to land counters, but this is a big step up in competition.
“Gifted” is likely to make this an ugly fight, because if it’s clean and technical then he is in Maheshate’s world. Garcia is likely to push him against the cage, constantly work for takedowns and use lots of dirty boxing and clinches. He’ durable and has great cardio to be relentless for 15 minutes, and I expect Garcia to put an end to the hype relatively comfortably in a fun fight. PICK – Rafa Garcia via Decision
The most anticipated women’s MMA rematch of all time as Julianna Pena defends her bantamweight title for the first time against Amanda Nunes at UFC 277 in the main event.
Pena completed one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport last time out, and now she looks to prove it wasn’t a fluke by beating her again.
In the co-main event we also have an interim flyweight title fight as former champion Brandon Moreno takes on Kai Kara-France in a rematch of their own, with the winner setting themselves up to take on injured champion Deiveson Figueiredo once he’s healthy.
Last time out at UFC London we had great fun live at the event, and we had a decent night with our picks too. We went 9/14 with five perfect picks to move to 673/1046 (64.34%) with 289 perfect picks (42.94%). You can check out our full picks history here.
Drakkar Klose (12-2) vs Rafa Garcia (14-2) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
One of the best fights on the card is buried in the prelims here with this one. Klose finally returned after a two-year absence to defeat Brandon Jenkins in his last bout, while Garcia comes into this on a two-fight win streak beating Natan Levy and Jesse Ronson in his last two.
Klose is a solid striker with great power and good wrestling skills, but defensively he is known to be caused trouble by active grapplers. Garcia is exactly that, with good takedowns and jiu-jitsu but he’s also talented on the feet too and can hold his own in that field. Klose was supposed to be fighting Diego Ferreira in this one, and that probably bodes well for him.
Garcia is an excellent fighter with legit skills, but Ferreira does everything he does better. Klose will know that and will have been preparing for that type of fight, so he will find confidence in that. He’s got the power to earn a KO, but more likely is that he defends the takedowns and just picks Garcia off on the feet from range to earn a win on the scorecards. PICK – Drakkar Klose via Decision
Don’Tale Mayes (9-4) vs Hamdy Abdelwahab (5-0) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Big boys take the stage next in this short-notice heavyweight scrap. Mayes has won his last two earning a decision over Roque Martinez before KO’ing Josh Parisian last time out. Abdelwahab makes his UFC debut as an unbeaten prospect, with all four of his knockout wins coming in 33 seconds or less.
Mayes stands at 6ft 6 and has got solid striking power in his hands, with good leg kicks and decent wrestling. Abdelwahab is a super powerful puncher, but his background comes in wrestling where he competed in the Olympics for Egypt back in 2016. Despite that though, his top game is relatively weak in comparison and his striking is super limited outside of power. Mayes has plenty of experience and should look to use that.
He must avoid the early power strikes, before Abdelwahab looks to start wrestling. If he does get taken down, he needs to find a way to be able to get back up quickly because once we get into the latter rounds he’ll start fading. Mayes should be able to use his more varied game and experience to claim a late win, but his reaction to being taken down is entirely important. Ultimately though, experience gets him the win. PICK – Don’Tale Mayes via Decision
Drew Dober (24-11) vs Rafael Alves (20-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another super fun lightweight scrap up next between two guys sitting outside of the rankings. Dober bounced back from two straight losses with a big KO win over Terrence McKinney last time out, while Alves has won six of his last seven including a first-round submission win over Mark Diakiese at UFC Vegas 42 last time out.
Dober is a brilliantly technical striker with good wrestling skills and superman-like durability. Alves meanwhile is a wild man, with great striking power and unbelievable submission skills but the inbetweens are few and far between. His striking techniques aren’t great despite the power, and his wrestling game is severely lacking to bring his submissions into play. With that said though, he only needs one error to be able to capitalise and end the fight in an instant.
Unfortunately for him though, Dober is good enough to be able to not make those errors. On the feet he is far more technical and he also has decent power himself, while his wrestling is more than good enough to keep the fight standing. Alves must hope for an error to jump on, but I don’t think it comes and Dober could land enough strikes in those exchanges to earn a finish somewhere in the middle round. PICK – Drew Dober via Knockout, Round 2
Alex Morono (21-7) vs Matthew Semelsberger (10-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)
Two powerhouses at 170-pounds get the featured prelim slot for this card. Morono has won three in a row, KO’ing Donald Cerrone at UFC Vegas 10, before decisions over David Zawada and Mickey Gall most recently. Semelsberger has won his last two, sleeping Martin Sano at UFC 266 in 15 seconds before a decision win over AJ Fletcher most recently.
Morono is an interesting fighter with great power in his hands and excellent jiu-jitsu skills, but it all gets bundled together wildly rather than technically. Semelsberger meanwhile is a terrific boxer with plenty of power, while his defensive wrestling skills have been proven in his recent fights. Both guys love a war and both guys will feel they can put the other out with one punch, so it should be entertaining for as long as it lasts.
But with that said, Semelsberger has a much clearer path to victory. He’s the more powerful of the two and his more technical striking should allow him to come out on top in those exchanges. Add his defensive wrestling meaning Morono will struggle to get his grappling into play, and I expect Semelsberger to be able to counter one of Morono’s wild swings to crack him clean and put this one to an end early. PICK – Matthew Semelsberger via Knockout, Round 1
Rafa Garcia (13-2) vs Jesse Ronson (21-10) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Another fun lightweight fight opens up this section of the card. Garcia finally got into the win column in the UFC after defeats to Nasrat Haqparast (UFC Vegas 21) and Chris Gruetzmacher, besting Natan Lewy on the scorecards last time out. Ronson on the other hand comes back into the UFC for a fifth bout, having had a no contest with Nicolas Dalby in a short-notice bout back in 2020 in his last fight.
Garcia is a wrestle-boxer, using his cardio as a weapon and his stinging right hand to cause his opposition problems. Ronson has the nickname ‘the body snatcher’ because of his impressive body work when striking, although his wrestling defence leaves a lot to be desired and that screams problems in this fight.
Garcia’s cardio had always been great for him up until his fight against Gruetzmacher where it gave way, but his striking against someone like Ronson should open up plenty of takedown opportunities. That should find the 27-year-old in a position to dictate the fight’s direction and claim a big win. PICK – Rafa Garcia via Decision
Drakkar Klose (11-2-1) vs Brandon Jenkins (15-8) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
More lightweights up next. Klose makes his first appearance in the octagon since his highlight reel knockout defeat to Beneil Dariush back in March 2020, while Brandon Jenkins returns following his debut defeat to Zhu Rong back in September last year.
Klose is a brawler with some decent takedowns and ground and pound in his game, with terrific power in his strikes and explosive speed. Jenkins is a wild fighter too, who walks forward and looks to land big techniques to secure knockouts. In short, this is as close to a tune up fight you’ll see in MMA.
Klose has got a huge advantage in every area of this fight and will likely be able to finish it in whichever way he assumes necessary. My guess is he walks Jenkins back to the cage and then lands a huge strike before following up with more shots to earn a big first-round knockout. PICK – Drakkar Klose via Knockout, Round 1
Lina Lansberg (10-5) vs Pannie Kianzad (16-6) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Two of Sweden’s greatest MMA exports go head-to-head in the women’s bantamweight division next. Lansberg got well beaten by Sara McMann last time out back in 2020, while Kianzad saw a four-fight win streak snapped by Raquel Pennington in her last outing back in September 2021.
Lansberg has the nickname the ‘Elbow Queen’ for a reason. She is a terrific striker with great clinch work, that she tends to try and break from with heavy elbows to the temple. Kianzad is a very crisp and clean boxer, who tends to use volume and speed to outwork her opponents and that seems like a great avenue to victory here against her 40-year-old countrywoman.
At her peak, Lansberg’s style would be great for her to try and grind Kianzad against the cage and frustrate her, but it seems unlikely. Her output is considerably lower than Kianzad’s and after a lengthy layoff, it’s unlikely to change much here so expect Kianzad to simply be too much for her. PICK – Pannie Kianzad via Decision
Devin Clark (12-6) vs William Knight (11-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
A featured prelim bout in the heavyweight division should be a banger. Clark has lost his last two, getting submitted by Anthony Smith before dropping a decision to Ion Cutelaba in his last fight. Knight claimed impressive wins over Fabio Cherant and Alonzo Menifield (UFC Vegas 44) before losing his last bout to Maxim Grishin at UFC 271.
Clark is a wrestler who looks to get into top position and land some solid ground and pound and control the position, while Knight is a brawler with horrendous technique but brutal ground and pound himself if he finds himself in top position. After a 12-pound weight miss last time by Knight, this fight takes place in a division above Clark’s natural weight class and that means Knight should have an advantage.
He is already incredibly powerful and explosive, so not having to cut weight means he should be really fresh for this match up. That said, it’s unlikely to be a fun bout. Neither guy has great cardio or output, so expect Knight to land the bigger strikes throughout the 15 minutes and muscle his way to a win. PICK – William Knight via Decision
Last week at UFC Vegas 42 we had a poor showing with our picks, earning jut 5/11 correct with three perfect picks to move to 476/741 (64.24%) with 200 perfect picks (42.02%) since June 2020.
We’ll look to improve on that this week with this 12 fight card and after starting with the early prelims, we move on to the rest of the prelim picks here.
Terrance McKinney (11-3) vs Fares Ziam (12-3) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight fight here. McKinney made his UFC debut at UFC 263 on very short notice and secured the quickest KO in lightweight history, putting Matt Frevola’s lights out in just seven seconds. Ziam on the other hand has earned back-to-back wins in the UFC, beating Jamie Mullarkey via decision at UFC Fight Island 6 before a majority decision over Luigi Vendramini at UFC 263.
McKinney is a super powerful striker on the feet, with some great boxing skills and a nasty low kick to go with it. He’s also got very good wrestling and some decent submission skills, earning six tap-out victories. Ziam on the other hand is a technical striker who fights at a slow pace and looks to counter-strike on the outside. That slow pace however could be a big problem for him in this fight, with McKinney a very fast starter.
‘T-Rex’ will likely come out hard and fast and look to put Ziam against the fence and land big strikes before moving on to his wrestling and trying to drag the fight to the ground where he has the edge. Ziam has every chance of countering those blitzes with powerful shots of his own, but I think McKinney’s ability to wrestle and grapple earns him a victory here. PICK – Terrence McKinney via Decision
Loma Lookboonmee (6-2) vs Lupita Godinez (6-2) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Another fun strawweight bout on this card as Lupita Godinez steps in for her third outing in a little over a month. A win over Silvana Gomez Juarez at UFC Vegas 26 was followed up the following week with a defeat up a weight class against Luana Carolina. Lookboonmee is on a two-fight win streak, beating Jinh Yu Frey and then beating Sam Hughes at UFC Vegas 25 most recently.
Lookboonmee is a brilliant kickboxer with great Muay-Thai skills and some much improved wrestling too, as shown in her last fight. Godinez is a decent wrestler herself with some okay striking on the feet, but ultimately it’s her wrestling that has got her this far. Unfortunately for her, Lookboonmee is very good when it comes to takedown defence and on the feet there is a very wide gap between the two.
Godinez has very good pressure early on and Lookboonmee is small even for this division, but her wrestling has improved to the point where there isn’t much of a difference between them. That means the fight will be tight and because of the edge on the feet, I think Lookboonmee can earn the victory. PICK – Loma Lookboonmee via Decision
Rafa Garcia (12-2) vs Natan Levy (6-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A very fun lightweight fight in this one between two fighters looking for their first UFC wins. Garcia is 0-2 in the organisation with decision losses to Nasrat Haqparast at UFC Vegas 21 and then Chris Gruetzemacher at UFC Vegas 33. Levy is making his UFC debut as an undefeated fighter, winning a UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series a year ago with a submission win.
Garcia is a solid wrestler with some excellent submission skills, earning seven of his 11 career wins via tap-out. Levy will stand opposite him also a decent wrestler with good submission skills once he’s on top, earning three of his six wins via tap-out. On the feet, Garcia has a big advantage in this fight though and that is what is leaning me towards this pick. Levy is a natural featherweight with a slight reach and heigh advantage, but he has really struggled with pressure in the past.
Garcia has previously gone five rounds in the past with a high pace and his ability to mix up the striking and wrestling should see him earn a victory against the smaller man. With that said though, Garcia’s cardio crumbled last time out and Levy is talented enough on the mat to secure a submission, but I think Garcia should be able to correct those issues and earn a win. PICK – Rafa Garcia via Decision
Pat Sabatini (15-3) vs Tucker Lutz (12-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A featherweight banger is the featured prelim bout on this card. Sabatini is on a four-fight win streak with wins over Tristan Connelly at UFC 261 and a submission win over Jamall Emmers at UFC Vegas 35. Lutz meanwhile is undefeated since losing his pro debut, earning a decision win over Kevin Aguilar in his UFC debut at UFC 262.
Sabatini is a ground specialist, with amazing submission skills earning him 10 of 15 wins coming via tap-out. He’s a decent wrestler too to get the fight to the ground while he’s not scared to trade strikes on the feet to open up his chances. Lutz however is a very well-rounded fighter, with good striking on the feet and some efficient wrestling skills to be able to dictate where he wants the fight to take place.
Lutz’s performance against Aguilar was excellent and while he seemed to get tired in the third round, Sabatini has also struggled with his cardio in the past. Lutz is comfortably the better fighter on the feet and with his good wrestling, he should be able to keep the fight standing and avoid Sabatini’s brilliant submission grappling to earn a comfortable decision win. PICK – Tucker Lutz via Decision
Matthew Semelsberger def Jason Witt via Knockout, Round 1 (0:16)
HOLY JESUS. Matthew Semelsberger lands a bomb of a right hand after 16 seconds and puts Witt out cold. Goodnight.
Jinh Yu Frey def Gloria De Paula via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Frey comes out with a nice left hand before the two ladies clinch and Frey gets an early takedown. De Paula threatens with an armbar from the bottom but Frey defends well and lands a few nice strikes from top position before a scramble allows her to take De Paula’s back. De Paula defends it well and is able to bring it back to full guard, before landing a couple of elbows from the bottom. Frey controlling the position with ease at the moment from the top although not much action from either fighter as we head into the final 90 seconds. Frey controls the position for the remainder of the round too as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Frey.
Slower start to the round from both women in this one as Frey lands a couple of nice left hands in exchanges. De Paula lands a few leg kicks from distance then goes up top with a nice head kick that lands clean. Frey continues to come forward to close the distance but De Paula doing well to get in and out quickly. De Paula in control of the exchanges on the feet halfway through the round and being first in the exchanges every time. Frey closes the distance and gets a clinch against the cage, but De Paula lands some nasty knees to the body and they separate. De Paula takes the centre now and is landing clean and fast into the final minute. Frey catches a kick but De Paula keeps her balance excellently to deny the takedown and should win the round. 19-19 going into the third.
De Paula comes out and throws her hands quickly once again, then has a kick caught and Frey sweeps her other foot away and gets an early takedown once again. Frey passes into half guard but De Paula threatens with a kimura grip, which allows Frey to pass into mount. De Paula tries to explode out but Frey takes the back and looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Frey staying composed on the back of De Paula who isn’t looking to get back to her feet at all as we enter the final minute. Frey gets the arm under the chin and tries for a one-armed choke but De Paula does really well to defend it and see the round out. Clear 29-28 win for Frey.
Aldrich takes the centre of the cage early on and has Casey circling the outside for the first 40-odd seconds before she engages in a clinch against the cage. Casey is able to stay strong and Aldrich separates, a big boost for Casey. Aldrich landing lots of leg kicks early on but Casey retaliates with some nice knees and a right hook as they clinch up once again. Casey charges forward once again with a flurry but Aldrich shoots and gets the takedown. Casey tries to threaten with a triangle and while Aldrich defends it will and lands a bit of ground and pound, Casey gets back to her feet. Aldrich gets it down again with a guillotine attempt in the final 30 seconds but Casey defends well and sees out the round. 10-9 Casey for me.
Casey looks stronger on the feet so far and she lands a big right hand that wobbles Aldrich! Casey follows it up with a head kick attempt that Aldrich catches and then Casey tries to jump on the back but ends up on the ground with Aldrich on top of her. Casey landing some nice strikes from the bottom but Aldrich now has wrist control after eating those shots and starts landing some huge ground and pound strikes with her left hand. Casey works her way back up to her feet against the cage with 90 seconds to go and throws two big right hooks that are blocked. Aldrich throws a right hook and then shoots in for another takedown with 20 seconds to go and gets it to end the round on top. 19-19 for me.
Final round and Aldrich comes forward again to get Casey backing up and she lands a nice one-two. Aldrich continues to push forward but Casey lands a couple of jabs nicely too. Big right hook and left straight from Casey lands and rocks Aldrich’s head back. A big exchange from the two sees them both landing well as we hit the halfway point. Aldrich lands a jab and then Casey turns away to move and Aldrich throws a big left straight down the pipe. Casey throws a hook that just misses and then Aldrich changes levels with a beautiful takedown. Casey gets back to her feet against the cage but Aldrich maintains a body lock until Casey is able to break the grip and separate. Casey comes forward with flurries again and is landing hard shots. Spinning back kick from Aldrich lands in Casey’s nether-regions and the referee pauses the fight with three seconds to go. Super close round, I’ve got it 29-28 Aldrich just.
Good start to the round for the debutant as Garcia takes the centre of the octagon and starts looking to land strikes through the guard of Haqparast. Lots of feelers and blocked strikes from both as Haqparast throws a very heavy left hand that that is partially blocked too. Garcia shoots in for a takedown against the cage but Haqparast denies him, but Garcia lands a nice knee to the body on the break. Garcia fakes a takedown and throws a huge overhand right that lands flush and wobbles Haqparast, but he recovers quickly and keeps going. Great rip to the body from Haqparast but Garcia backs him against the cage and throws a nice elbow that just misses too. Garcia goes for two more takedowns against the cage but they get stuffed well too as the round ends. 10-9 Garcia but it’s a close round.
Garcia comes out quickly in the second round once again and puts the pressure on against the cage well. Garcia lands a couple of nice hooks but Haqparast stays composed and starts digging to the body with some great punches. Nice elbow from Haqparast lands and Garcia comes forward with a right hand of his own. Haqparast lands two nice left hands and Garcia charges forward again with jabs and front kicks to the body. Haqparast denies a takedown attempt and then lands a left hand, before throwing Garcia to the floor with a judo throw. Great uppercut lands from Haqparast but Garcia continues to walk forward with jabs, before Haqparast lands a big body kick too. Big front kick to the body again from Haqparast who denies another takedown on the buzzer. 19-19 for me, but could be 20-18 Haqparast.
Garcia looks a bit slower in this final round but is still coming forward with intensity. Haqparast has started finding his timing now though and lands a great elbow followed by an uppercut and hook that land clean. Another elbow and uppercut from Haqparast lands as Garcia continues to come forward, but Haqparast throwing body kicks hard that are slowing Garcia down more and more. Straight left lands against for Haqparast as Garcia is bleeding now and getting picked apart on the feet. Garcia lands a nice right hand as we enter the final minute of the round and they exchange kicks. Big head kick from Haqparast twice lands but he doesn’t get the finish as the round ends. 29-27 for me.
Rani Yahya def Ray Rodriguez via Submission (Head and Arm Choke), Round 2 (3:09)
Fast start as Rodriguez goes for a head kick off the bat and then lands a straight right in an exchange, but Yahya goes straight for a body lock looking for a takedown and eventually gets it. Yahya with heavy top pressure, landing some nice ground and pound but really just trying to maintain position from half guard. Yahya looking to move into side control with great shoulder pressure but abandons it after decent defence from Rodriguez. Final minute now and Rodriguez manages to get into full guard for a few seconds before Yahya looks to lock up a head and arm choke with 20 seconds left but Rodriguez defends well and survives the round. 10-9 Yahya, easily.
Rodriguez opens the second round with some nice boxing once again, keeping a distance and doing well but he backs up to the cage and Yahya gets another takedown at the first attempt once again. Straight back into half guard once again and Yahya starts threatening with the head and arm choke early on. Rodriguez tries to explode up with the butterfly guard but Yahya jumps over it, gets back into half guard and passes to the other side. He sinks in the head and arm choke and forces Rodriguez to tap. Beautiful performance from Yahya.
Charles Jourdain def Marcelo Rojo via Knockout, Round 3 (4:31)
Fun start to the first round as both men trade hard kicks to begin, with Jourdain throwing lots of head kicks. Rojo throws a right hook that misses and then they clinch, with both men landing nice knees before Jourdain separates. Nice left hand from Rojo looking to counter but just misses, then Jourdain lands a nice uppercut in the clinch. Rojo throwing lots of knees in the clinch towards the face, but they’re not quite landing yet. Rojo lands a leg kick that drops Jourdain, then lands a one-two as Jourdain gets back to his feet. Very even round as we head into the final 90 seconds and Rojo throws a nice flurry that lands nicely before looking to rip Jourdain’s body with a left hook. Jourdain retaliates with nice body shots in the clinch before the round ends. 10-9 Rojo for me but genuinely could go either way.
Rojo comes out hard in the second round and throwing some hard shots and combinations that either graze or just miss Jourdain. Strong leg kick is responded to by Jourdain with a great jab, who then lands a big right hook. A close exchange sees Jourdain accidentally eye-poke Rojo which forces a pause in the action but they get back to it quickly with flurries. Jourdain catches a kick and lands a big body shot and right hook, before Rojo charges forward and lands a big three-punch combo to the head, followed by a knee and body shot. Clinch against the cage is a stalemate and Rojo looks for a spinning elbow on the break. Snappy jab from Jourdain lands flush but Rojo continues to come forward and just misses with that big knee again. Jourdain eats some big leg kicks and responds with a huge flying knee that lands! He lands a couple of big hooks too with Rojo rocked but he survives the round. Another close one, 19-19 for me.
Fast start for Jourdain in this final round as he comes forward and puts the pressure on Rojo immediately, landing his left hand a lot. Rojo is considerably slower now and Jourdain is picking him apart, then lands a huge left hand down the middle that drops him! Jourdain jumps on him and looks for the ground and pound finish, then runs and jumps off the cage to continue the strikes. Heavy shots on the ground but Rojo is tiring and Jourdain is landing big. Jourdain lets Rojo back up and they start throwing haymakers against each other looking for a finish. Jourdain keeps pounding away and lands another left hand that drops Rojo and the referee ends it! What a performance!
Angela Hill def Ashley Yoder via Unanimous Decision (30-27 x3)
Competitive start to the fight with Hill looking to land straight rights and Yoder landing some nice kicks so far. Hill has the centre of the cage and is feinting the body shots, then shoots in against the cage for a clinch. Hill lands some nice knees before Yoder looks for a head and arm throw but it’s well defended by Hill. Hill responds with a huge elbow and then goes back to the clinch before they separate with about 90 seconds to go in the round. Hill controlling the range right now and landing shots freely and has a big speed advantage to get in and out, avoiding the attacks of Yoder. Hill steps in with a front kick to the body then lands three huge overhand rights that rock Yoder! She goes for a finish and takes Yoder down but she recovers enough to see out the round. 10-9 Hill.
More of the same in this second round as Hill takes the centre and looks to land body kicks and overhand rights. Yoder can’t get close enough for the takedown and is getting picked apart on the feet. Hill lands a big straight right hand once again that snaps Yoder’s head back and she’s in total control right now. Hill goes for a clinch and lands some nice knees to the body, with Yoder starting to slow down a bit. Hill lands more right hands and now is chopping down the legs of Yoder. Big knee to the body followed by a kick and Yoder is hurting. Flurry of punches to the head and Yoder is surviving right now, then Hill goes for a knee to the body and Yoder catches it and secures a takedown to end the round on top. 20-18 Hill.
Yoder comes out like a bull in a china shop looking to close the distance and get a takedown but Hill immediately out-muscles her, clinches up and starts landing big knees to the body against the cage. Hill just too strong physically for Yoder and completely dominating the position and pace of the fight. Big punch to the body again from Hill before another clinch and some more nasty Muay Thai knees to the body allow Yoder to overpower her onto the floor. Yoder controls the position from the top and is fighting Hill well, but Hill is too strong and gets back to the feet and lands more knees again. Round comes to an end with Hill landing two big right hands to take a wide decision. Great performance. 30-27 Hill.
Eryk Anders vs Darren Stewart – NO CONTEST (Illegal knee)
Lots of feelers being put out by both guys early on with feints and flicks before Stewart lands a nice left hand. A good exchange between the two and it’s Stewart who comes out on top once again, as he starts showboating a little. Anders shoots in for a takedown but Stewart does well to defend it and the battle in the clinch. Stewart lands some good knees but then Anders lands a huge left hand that rocks him! Anders lands some huge punches and drops Stewart but the Brit continues to fight back. Anders throws an illegal knee (d’oh!) against the cage and the referee stops the fight. Stewart tries to continue but the doctor calls the fight off. No contest called.
Fun start to the fight as both men look to feint early. Nicolau lands an immediate leg kick that hurts Kape but he continues to come forward with jabs and leg kicks of his own. Nicolau being more explosive and faster right now and Kape falling into the same trap as his first fight by being not active enough. Nicolau gets a takedown and Kape is able to work his way back to the feet and slip out of a guillotine attempt. Nicolau gets another takedown and ends the round on top. 10-9 Nicolau.
Second round and Kape comes out with more urgency this time. Big left uppercut lands and rocks Nicolau early! He follows it up with a couple of other shots and when he’s landing he’s hurting Nicolau. He stuffs a takedown attempt and comes forward again, but this time Nicolau lands a big hook of his own. Kape lands a leg kick and then a knee followed by a right hand that lands flush. Kape walking Nicolau down against the cage and letting strikes flow but Nicolau shoots for a power double across the cage and gets him down, but Kape bounces straight back up. Nicolau tries to launch forward with a left hand but misses and Kape counters with a right hook. 19-19, much better.
Kape takes the centre in the third round and is letting his hands go again. Kape throws a nice leg kick but Nicolau throws a nice left hand that lands on the forehead. Kape stings him with a nice jab and then lands a nice counter right hook again. Nicolau goes for a takedown but Kape stuffs it brilliantly and stands back up immediately. Nicolau gets back up and drops Kape with a leg kick and starts landing with a lot of volume. Big hooks and straight land but Kape replies with a right hook well. Final minute and Kape throws a head kick then follows it up with a left hook. He stuffs two takedown attempts brilliantly and is throwing big combinations too. Huge flying knee lands from Kape and then he follows it up with another to the body! Nicolau lands a spinning back elbow as the round ends! Super close round but I think Kape edges it. 29-28.
Davey Grant def Jonathan Martinez via Knockout, Round 2 (3:03)
Good start to the round from Grant as he comes forward well and applies pressure with lots of strikes and kicks. Martinez happy to stand and trade with him and throws an excellent leg kick to hurt Grant. Grant continues with spinning kick attacks and high kicks but Martinez is countering really well with his fast hands. Grant with a switch step and a big right hook but it’s well blocked by Martinez. Big leg kick from Martinez again but Grant keeping the pressure on with kicks from range and heavy hooks. Huge left hook from Martinez lands on the chin and Grant gets dropped! Martinez looks to land some ground and pound but the round ends and allows Grant a chance to recover. 10-9 Martinez.
Grant comes out nice and aggressive in the second round and continues to chop away at the leg, before Grant lands a right hand on the chin. Grant continues to come forward with flurries and then shoots in for a takedown but Martinez defends it brilliantly. Grant lands another right hand and is throwing combinations now just to touch him and is stopping Martinez from throwing anything significant because of the pace. Grant throws a body shot and left hook and Martinez is OUT!! Grant follows it up with an extra shot but it’s all over! Wow!
Dan Ige def Gavin Tucker via Knockout, Round 1 (0:22)
DAN IGE!!! ONE PUNCH KNOCKOUT!! HOLY COW!
Ryan Spann def Misha Cirkunov via Knockout, Round 1 (1:11)
Fast start to the round from both fighters as they exchange jabs and kicks, as Cirkunov lands a low blow by accident after 30 seconds. A short pause and they get to it again and Spann lands a straight right hand that drops Cirkunov! He goes for the ground and pound but Cirkunov kicks him off and so Spann makes him get back to the feet. Spann stays calm and then lands a big punch on the side of the head that drops him again and after some ground and pound the referee waves it off! Huge KO for Ryan Spann!
Leon Edwards vs Belal Muhammad – NO CONTEST (Accidental eye poke)
Tentative start to the fight as Edwards takes the centre of the cage and forces Muhammad backwards immediately, landing a body kick and following up with a big one two. Edwards goes for a takedown against the cage but Muhammad clinches up and reverses the position well before they separate. Edwards throws a head kick and wobbles Muhammad! Edwards throws some wild hooks but Muhammad blocks them all and then Edwards shoots for a takedown but once again it’s denied well by Belal. Body kick from Muhammad lands nicely but it’s Edwards pushing the pace and pressuring forwards. Big one-two from Edwards lands again and wobbles Muhammad before the buzzer goes to end the round. 10-9 Edwards.
Second round starts and both guys are aggressive early on. Edwards goes to throw a head kick and his hand accidentally pokes Muhammad in the eye as it lands. Muhammad goes down screaming and crying, saying he can’t see anything. Herb Dean waves the fight off almost immediately and it’s another no contest.
It’s finally a Leon Edwards fight week! After almost two years away from the cage for several reasons, the Briton returns to the octagon to take on short-notice opponent Belal Muhammad in the main event.
Edwards has been promised a title shot with a big performance and knows that just winning isn’t enough, while Muhammad will be keen to show he does belong in there and isn’t just a late replacement.
Last weekend at UFC 259 we managed to go 10/15 on our predictions with four perfect picks to take our total up to 250/395 (63.29%) with 112 perfect picks (44.8%).
We will look to improve that further with this 13 fight card and having already predicted the early prelims here, lets move on to the rest of the preliminary bouts.
Nasrat Haqparast (12-3) vs Rafa Garcia (12-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
A truly exciting lightweight fight between ‘Baby Gastelum’ Nasrat Haqparast against undefeated debutant Rafa Garcia in a short-notice fight. Haqparast won his last fight against Alex Munoz at UFC Vegas 6 and was scheduled to fight Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 257 before failing to weigh in. Rafa Garcia makes his UFC debut after over a year away from the cage, coming in as a highly rated grappler.
Haqparast has great hand speed and fantastic footwork and while his takedown defence isn’t phenomenal, his ability to get back to his feet after being taken down is. He has good power in his hands too with nine knockout wins in his career. Garcia is a fighter who pushes a crazy pace and hunts his opponents down for a takedown so he can work his tremendous submission game, as his seven wins by tap-out show. He has decent striking too and much like Kamaru Usman, uses his strikes to back you up to the cage and put you on the mat.
It’s a really good match up where both men’s strengths compliment their opponents but the stand up skills of Haqparast and the fact he was in a full camp already mean I lean his way. He’s got great boxing and a power advantage and as the fight goes on, the cardio will have a big say. PICK – Nasrat Haqparast via Knockout, Round 3
Rani Yahya (26-10-1) vs Ray Rodriguez (16-7) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing bantamweight bout between two MMA veterans at completely different ends of their UFC career. Yahya has been with the UFC since 2011 but hasn’t won either of his last two fights going back to 2018 after losing to Ricky Simon and then fighting to a draw with Enrique Barzola in March 2020. Rodriguez made his UFC debut on short notice back in September and was submitted in just 39 seconds by Brian Kelleher.
That doesn’t bode well for Rodriguez, who comes up against a jiu-jitsu master in Yahya in this one. Yahya has won 20 of his fights via submission with 12 of those coming in the first round. His game plan is always the same, ambush his opponent with multiple takedown attempts and use technique to get an early submission until he’s too tired – and then just don’t get KO’d in the hope he doesn’t lose a third round 10-8. Against Rodriguez, that should work considering his not-so-great takedown defence and poor submission defence. PICK – Rani Yahya via Submission, Round 1
Charles Jourdain (10-3-1) vs Marcelo Rojo (16-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
An absolute banger at featherweight as a short-notice bout comes together for ‘Air’ Jourdain and debutant Marcelo Rojo. Jourdain’s UFC tenure has been more than interesting, going 1-2-1 in his four bouts, with a defeat to Andre Fili at UFC Vegas 2 before a draw against Joshua Culibao back in October. Rojo originally stepped in to face Raoni Barcelos on short-notice, only for Barcelos to drop out and this fight to be made and he will finally return to the cage for the first time since September 2019.
Both guys like to come out and fight fire with fire, throwing bombs and looking to knock their opponent out with power. Both hit hard and have skills on the ground with 24 finishes in their career but prefer to keep the bout on the feet. Jourdain seemingly has the power advantage and has fought in the UFC before although his run hasn’t been good. Neither will look to wrestle but the cardio is also in Jourdain’s favour so with Rojo stepping up a weight-class to fight a bigger and better fighter than he has before, I think Jourdain edges it in a fight of the night contender. PICK – Charles Jourdain via Knockout, Round 3
Angela Hill (12-9) vs Ashley Yoder (8-6) – (Strawweight/115lbs)
Despite their close fight the first time around, I can’t see this one being as competitive. Hill is the better striker by a distance and has improved her ground game to a point where she can stuff the takedowns of some of the better wrestlers in the division and fight off her back and get back to her feet well. Yoder will try to get this fight to the ground to add to her four submission wins, but Hill is just too advanced now and should get a pretty comfortable win. PICK – Angela Hill via Decision